Cocktails, glitz and gilding are hallmarks of the roaring ’20s and pervade the glamorous world crafted by F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Great Gatsby.” This spring, writer and director Baz Luhrmann — with his penchant for quick camera shots and larger-than-life grandeur, as evidenced in some of his other films, including “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge” — is bringing the movie to the big screen. In the trailers, we spy Leonardo DiCaprio brooding through lush, opulent art deco sets, while Carey Mulligan’s Daisy flitters about the film laden with period-inspired jewels designed by Tiffany & Co. for the movie. Tiffany isn’t the only retailer banking on the box office with a collection in hopes that the movie inspires a renewed interest in art deco style.
“Hermes came out with a chair last year that was a basic replica of a Jean-Michel Frank chair and sells for $17,000,” says Jean-Marc Fray, owner of Jean-Marc Fray Antiques.
Various manufacturers have released designs this year inspired by the period in which the movie is set. For example, the Harlow lamp, by Corbett Lighting (available in Austin at Ferguson Bath Kitchen and Lighting Gallery, 700 E. St. Elmo Road, www.ferguson.com, 512-445-5140), has clean, elegant lines, shimmering ivory shade and faceted crystal accents epitomizes luxurious, yet simple art deco design and styling.
“‘Art deco’ style developed out of a stylized ‘streamlining’ of design with the dramatic high point of the Exposition Internationale des arts decoratifs et industriels modernes, held in Paris in 1925,” says Christie’s vice president, senior specialist Brent Lewis. “In America, we think of great architectural skyscrapers such as Rockefeller Plaza and Chrysler Building — both 1930 — and designers such as Donald Deskey, Paul Frankl and Norman Bel Geddes who led the style (not only) for interiors and furniture, but also industrial designs for everything from radios to trains.”
While the style of the pieces themselves were often simple — a precursor to minimalist modernism — by employing exotic woods, bronze and beautiful craftsmanship, layering fabrics, furniture and accessories and repeating motifs in interiors, it created a visual luxury indicative of the time period.
“We’re right after the art nouveau period in France,” says Jean-Marc Fray of Jean-Marc Fray Antiques. “It has always followed the same human dynamic. You go out of one period and into another, new movements, politics, philosophies.”
Fray says, art deco goes back to a more modern trend, but also draws from classicism.
“Designers Jean-Michel Frank and Jules Leleu create pieces that have the same balance and proportions of a chair made in the early 19th century,” he says. “That’s why it’s easy to mix with other styles that have similar proportions. You have a lot of references to cubism, to African style, to woods that are used. It’s a genesis of a period of modern, clean lines.”
Interior designer Sharon Radovich, owner of Panache Interiors, is always on the lookout for art deco pieces for a long-time client who collects pieces of the style and era. Radovich then blends the client’s pieces with contemporary items to avoid a stuffy, museum atmosphere.
“The bulk of her pieces are accessories and art, but she has a few furniture pieces,” says Radovich, who last summer completed the client’s most recent residence in Solano Beach, Calif. “For this house, we mixed her collectibles with a boxy gold leather sofa, two sculpted black chairs and a (Gustav) Klimt-inspired rug.”
Radovich used an art deco chest for the TV and its components then paired a mirror and marble mosaic to the fireplace surround to add dramatic flair.
“She has several Erté prints and a stately matador that we always display prominently,” says Radovich. “Her mother gave her a camel table and the butler prints over the dining table. An Egyptian sofa dates back to her Bohemian days living in Travis Heights.”
When adding art deco into your own interior, Fray recommends going with simple pieces.
“People can end up going with a piece that’s too extravagant, that is too bulky, that goes too much toward cubism and is too in your face,” says Fray. “Try to buy pieces that are not too loud in terms of design.”
He also advises looking for walnut, mahogany and the exotic woods from Africa, such as Macassar Ebony.
“You are going to start to find plywood starting in that time, so it shouldn’t not be a deterrent, you’ll find it in art deco,” says Fray. “Most art deco pieces are going to be veneered because that’s the only way to show the interest, like burl in the wood for example.”
Finally, be sure to ask about the finish of the wood. Fray says the French polish finish is one of the determining factors in a French art deco piece. It is a type of shellac and doesn’t involve the use of polyurethane.
As for resurgence in the art deco trend, Fray says it harkens to a time when people wanted to treat themselves.
“It was just after the war,” says Fray. “The glamor was there and people deserved it. It’s nice for people to feel like they are living in a similar era.”